How do I Choose the Best Treatment Facility?
Some Canadian treatment centers take part in a rigorous process of surveying, feedback, and quality improvement in order to maintain an accredited healthcare status. Accreditations and licensing can get confusing when you’re looking for addiction treatment, so we will try to make it easier to understand through this blog.
There is a full spectrum of treatment options in Canada. They range from large-scale residential facilities with multiple locations to small sober living residences. Often, it is almost impossible to tell what kind of quality you’ll be receiving just through an online search.
Government licensing used to be an accurate indicator of quality service, but is no longer dependable with financial cuts to many sectors such as healthcare.
WHAT IS ACCREDITATION?
Accreditation is a way of creating universal standards among businesses and sectors. Accreditation agencies demand best practices and standards for consistent, quality healthcare. There are several types of accrediting agencies as well. There are agencies that focus on certain sectors (such as healthcare for treatment centers) and then several agencies within each sector.
Accreditation provides a framework for constant improvement. The good thing about the accrediting process is that it prevents organizations from just cleaning up every three years during inspection. A facility will only be successful if it’s constantly working towards better practices. In other words, facilities can’t put on a pretty face when accreditation time comes around. Accredited treatment facilities, because of the rigorous surveying process, will generally have high standards in medication, medical and nursing care, infection control, and staff credentials.
While a non-accredited facility may not have a quality improvement program in place, accredited facilities are required to ask for, implement, and document feedback. A large healthcare facility treating substance use disorders that isn’t accredited should raise red flags.
Even with the benefits of accreditation, there are some drawbacks and limitations. We note them below:
Because accreditation isn’t free, accredited facilities will usuallyneed to charge more than equivalent non-accredited organizations. While there is a direct cost increase related to the cost of performing site surveys every three years, much of the higher costs comes from ensuring certain quality standards such as rigorous documentation and qualified staff credentials (e.g. more schooling and experience means more pay).
BIAS & NO AUTHORITY
While accrediting agencies require certain standards be adhered to, they don’t have the authority to shut down facilities with bad practices. In other words, they aren’t a healthcare licensor. In addition, because accreditation agencies are paid by the facility (as opposed to an outside governing body), it is in their best interest to keep working with organizations until they satisfy standards. Because there are so many agencies, accreditation is a competitive field that people can expect to find biases in.
Accreditation will ensure that necessary credentials, proper medical care, and infection control are all in place in treatment facilities. It won’t, however, reflect certain programming and counselling/therapy approach used by a facility. So, if you think a program is good (or the right fit) just because it’s accredited, that may not be true. Regardless of the 12 steps or evidence-based models, accreditation simply means the best healthcare practices are being adhered to (or at least worked towards).
Large accredited facilities will often only have 10% of its locations surveyed and choose which locations will be inspected. Thus, their “poorer quality” facilities receive better ratings even though no one has inspected them.
Not all non-accredited facilities indicate poor practices or quality. If an organization is too young (i.e. has only been open for a few years) it may not be eligible for accreditation. Some facilities simply don’t have the financial means to get accredited, but that does not mean they have bad practices, quality, and standards. Sober living residences are a good example of this. Since many are ran privately and only host a handful of people at a time, they simply can’t afford to pay for accreditation. Decisions for attending facilities like these should be based on other research and needs. Make sure to look for proper healthcare licensing at the very least, since unlicensed sober living residences are known to be problematic throughout the country.
Anyone searching for addiction treatment should look for an accredited facility. Why? Because you can. There are enough accredited organizations available that no one should give up quality care for convenience, price, or anything else. You should also look for licensing, too. If a facility you’re researching has neither, then it should bring up several red flags. If you want to see accredited addiction treatment facilities nearby or in a certain area, accreditation agencies list them on their websites along with rankings.